Senior technical director, national informatics centre (NIC)
A web portal for every gram panchayat
We have 6 lakh villages, 2.40 lakh gram panchayats where people are provided their entitlements. Those are the places where ICT can be deployed to offer anytime, anywhere services to benefit the masses. For the rural development programme, the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme (MNREGS), we have an information system covering the entire lifecycle right from registration to payment.
It has grown in stages over the last five-six years. Subsequently, we have begun using management information system (MIS) and workflow management. By and large, connectivity is available in more than 90 percent of the total 6,000 blocks. The MNREGS application is now being used in a workflow manner.
Very soon, four states are going to disburse wages through e-payment. Pilots are already over in this regard. MNREGS has given a boost to MIS solutions deployed in other projects. Through MNREGS application, we are getting one gigabit of data on a daily basis. It is a massive system, where we get even image of the beneficiary. And all that data is in public domain.
Right to information (RTI) applications on MNREGS are really less in number because of the availability of data in public domain. So ICT has facilitated dissemination of information and transparency. Now there is benchmark through which the employment guarantee scheme can be evaluated.
On the challenges front, language is a major challenge. For example, in Jharkhand, the department of public health and engineering wanted to communicate with the village pradhans. The department has a system in place through which it sends SMSes to all pradhans – asking them about the state of safe drinking water, functioning of hand pumps, etc. The department initially got response from just 100 out of the total 5,000 to 6,000 pradhans. First, sending SMSes cost them money. Second, they received SMSes in English which many of them didn’t understand. After we sorted these issues, and the number of people replying to the SMS went up. Whatever be the strategy, we have to solve the last-mile problem for schemes to be called a success.
Under the e-Panchayati Raj Institutions project, a mission mode project under national e-governance plan (NeGP), we are developing websites for each of the 2.40 lakh panchayats. It is a huge task. Here, the industry should come forward to help us with capacity-building. The private sector should reach out to the block level. They have already reached out to the district level. Previously, when you went to panchayat level, every panchayat secretary used to remember 10 passwords. Today we are focused on a single sign-in and sign-out, under the ePRI.